Jack Prenter from KnownMan.com looks at how to dress for a job interview and the importance of looking professional when meeting prospective employers.
How to dress for a job interview
Whether we like it or not the reality is that we are judged based on how we look. So it’s no surprise that employers expect their employees to dress in a certain way to reflect the ethos and persona of the company.
While dress codes have arguably become more relaxed in the past 20 years, especially for women, in many white collar jobs wearing a suit whether male or female is a requirement. For those of us working in digital marketing, we often take for granted that we can either work from home in our underwear or wear relatively relaxed casual clothes to work. But eventually the majority of us, even in digital marketing, will end up working in a stricter environment or attending client meetings where we have to dress up.
Business casual or business formal?
One thing that has always confused people is the different terminology for the level of formality. What’s the difference between business casual and smart casual after all? Well, it turns out quite a lot.
Business casual is essentially just business formal (read: suits) without the tie and jacket. You’re still expected to wear dress pants, shoes and shirts. Whereas smart casual is what you’d wear to your grandmas birthday party. Smart, but you’re probably wearing jeans and a nice shirt rather than suit pants and dress shoes.
To complicate things further, the terminology and expectations differ hugely between countries. For example; if we compare Australia to the United States, we see that across the board there is more acceptance in Australia for casual wear with many offices getting rid of dress codes entirely. This is partly down to the weather making it impractical to wear layered suits all year round, but in a larger part is because of the more relaxed culture with regards to appearance.
For those of you reading this in the US you know how appearance driven the country really is. Believe it or not, it isn’t that bad in other countries. There often isn’t the same judgement based on dress so employers may not require their staff to always put on a costume at work.
How social media impacts how we dress for a job interview
With social media adoption at a higher level than ever we get a more rounded view of our friends and our idols. With this change in society it will be interesting to see how this affects office culture. It’s possible that we will begin to recognise employees as other humans and understand that a suit shouldn’t change how we think about someone. On the other hand, with celebrity-driven culture growing and people selectively sharing on social media, we could experience the opposite where we expect people to look perfect at all times on social media and in the real world.
It’s fascinating to examine the different dress codes of offices and when you do you come to the old chicken and the egg problem; what came first, the dress code or the culture? It depends. When we look at Silicon Valley I’d argue that the dress code has almost become a symbol of defiance. It isn’t corporate America and we’re showing it. On the other hand we’ve got people like lawyers where you want them to appear trust-worthy and responsible. You want to know they are capable and our society has driven through media the perception that suits equal trust.
With more and more Wall Street scandals are we losing belief in the suit? Does it scream trust or scam? What do you think?